Saturday, January 31, 2009

Galactica Alamo!

All hell and mutiny broke loose on Battlestar Galactica, Final Episode 3, last night ... concluding with a spectacular scene of Bill Adama and Tigh defending a hatch with weapons in hand against all odds, backs to the wall, as if they were defending the Alamo...

The odds were most of the rest of the human crew - unhappy, as we saw last week, about Adama's order to install Cylon faster-than-light drives in the ships. Gaeta, who has graduated from pathetic to despicable, is now giving the military orders, and Zarek the political.

The real President, Laura, is now finally back in the fray, trying to douse the mutiny, but it's a little too late. Balter weighs in too, with similar nil results. On the other hand, we had another great scene when Adama takes Laura in his arms, and they kiss, let's hope not goodbye, and Lee, Starbuck, and some of the small band of good-guy humans board a shuttle craft that Tyrol had secreted for perhaps just such an occasion.

Another great scene, earlier, had Starbuck blasting away a couple of humans to save Lee. Then she kisses him, too, and says it feels good to be alive.

BSG has never been better in fast-moving blasting, in which every major character is expendable... and we've yet to see what the bad Cylons - Caville and company - are going to do about all of this.

See also: Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck ... Final 2: Baby and Mutiny Make Three

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Press Secretary Gibbs Unwilling to Talk About Obama's Position on Fairness Doctrine

I didn't want to let this week end without noting White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' refusal to talk at yesterday's daily press briefing about Obama's position on the Fairness Doctrine.

Here's a little background and upshot:

1. The Fairness Doctrine was introduced in 1949, became a bulwark of FCC policy, and was found constitutional by a unanimous Supreme Court decision - Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC - in 1969. The Doctrine required broadcasters to provide time for contrasting views on controversial public policy issues.

2. I think the Fairness Doctrine was wrong and unconstitutional from the beginning. The Constitution - in particular, the First Amendment - requires government to make "no law" abridging or restricting or regulating freedom of speech and press. A requirement to be "fair" or present contrasting views is clearly an abridgment or restriction of the press's rights. I therefore think the Red Lion decision was one of the worst, most destructive Supreme Court decisions in the nation's history regarding the First Amendment and the freedoms it protects.

3. The FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 as an "intrusion by government" that "restricts the journalistic freedom of broadcasters". (Red Lion did not insist upon a Fairness Doctrine - the Supreme Court merely said that it was not unconstitutional.)

4. Senator Schumer (D-NY) and others are talking about reinstating the Fairness Doctrine.

President Obama's position on the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine is thus crucial - it is unlikely to be reinstated if he is against it. On the other hand, if he favors its reinstatement, preventing that will be difficult indeed, with the Democratic numbers in the Senate.

This will be Obama's first chance to come out strongly for the First Amendment. It has received a beating the past 16 years - Clinton and Bush 43 administrations were equally unwilling to respect its provisions (see my Flouting of the First Amendment for details). Just in the past few days, NBC refused to air a Superbowl commercial, in fear of FCC fines (see video below).

Obama's saying nothing about the Fairness Doctrine now is ok. But the time may soon come when silence will be deafening to the rights that most protect our freedom - the right to say, write, broadcast as we please, free of government supervision.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop in Lost

This arose in a question my friend science-fiction author Michael Burstein asked about where the compass that (the slightly) older Richard gave to Locke last week, and Locke gave back to the younger Richard last night in Lost 5.3 - where that compass come from in the first place?

The topic is so interesting and so much fun - if you love time travel, as many of us do - that I thought I'd provide a more detailed response here.

First, here's a complete statement of the impressively paradoxical Loop: (a) Older Richard has a compass, which he recalls receiving when he was younger, from older Locke (older = Locke has the compass). (Or, we can start when Richard receives the compass from Locke - it doesn't matter where/when in the Loop we start). (b) Older Richard also knows that he must give the compass to younger Locke (or, Locke before he received the compass), and Richard even knows where and when, in the jungle, because older Locke presumably told Richard. (c) Older Richard indeed gives the compass to younger Locke in the jungle last week. Locke has now been transformed to older Locke (with the compass). If he succeeds in giving the compass to younger Richard - which of course he does - the Loop is established.

But - back to the question - where did the compass come from in the first place?

One possible way we can explain how the compass got into the Loop is to hypothesize an earlier version of the universe (Compass 1), in which Richard gets the compass from someone other than Locke. When Richard sees Locke in the jungle last week, he gives Locke the compass, not because Richard remembers actually getting the compass from Locke when Richard was younger, but because Richard sees this as a good plan (including giving Locke the impression that Richard already knew about all of this). The instant Locke takes the compass, we're now in Compass 2, and the Loop (which of course also is predicated on Locke surviving long enough to give the compass back to the younger Richard)...

We can tweak with the details, and say, for example, that younger Richard finds himself in possession of a compass at some point, and doesn't how he came to have it (just as we occasionally all find something in our desks that we may not quite recall receiving). We could also hypothesis that, at some point prior to the meeting in jungle, older Richard suddenly remembers older Locke giving him the compass, etc - just as Desmond does Faraday's visit. But the key in all of these explanations about where the compass comes from - other than the vortex of paradox - is that younger Richard gets the compass, at first, from someone other than older Locke, but quickly knows what he must do and say to younger Locke when they meet in the jungle last week...

Any questions? :)

See also: Lost 5.3: The Loops, the Bomb!

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

"a thinking person's time travel story" - SF Signal

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Chris Matthews Should Have Thrown Dick Armey Off the Show

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey's sexist attack on Salon editor Joan Walsh on MSNBC's Hardball last night - telling her, in response to her apt critique of Republican intransigence in responding to the economic crisis, that "I'm so damn glad you can never be my wife because I surely wouldn't have to listen to that prattle from you" - has been well lambasted all over the Web, along with plaudits for New York Times reporter Bob Herbert, who, appearing on the next Hardball segment, said Armey owed Walsh and Hardball viewers an apology (see video clips below).

One aspect of this Republican outburst which has not received enough attention, however, is Hardball host Chris Matthews' mild response. He did say that what Joan Walsh said was "not prattle," and, in the segment after Bob Herbert's, that Armey "went way overboard going after Joan" - but where was the outrage, the shouting down of jackasses by Chris Matthews, that has become one of the admirable hallmarks of his show?

Why didn't Matthews interrupt Armey, talk over him, and throw him off the show?

Perhaps he's a bit tone deaf to sexism, or maybe is so used to such trash-talk from some Republicans that he doesn't find it so outrageous. It is true, at least in my experience, that when you make a logical point that makes some Republicans uncomfortable, they respond with a personal attack. I noticed this the very first time I was on O'Reilly's Factor, and he started riffing on his amazement that someone with my views could be a professor at Fordham University (I was actually happy to hear this, because it gave the school good publicity).

But ubiquity of bad behavior is no reason to continue accept it. Matthews should have shown Armey to the door last night. I hope he makes up for not doing that by denouncing Armey in much stronger terms, tonight.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lost 5.3: The Loops, The Bomb

A strong, quiet second act and third hour of Lost Season 5 tonight, in which we learn -

1. The origin, or at least a big piece of the history of, Charles Widmore, whom we see as a young man, part of Richard's people in a military outfit, back on the island in the early 1950s...

2. We also see Widmore in the future, our present, as he advises Desmond, who comes to see him, to take Penny and stay the hell away from the island. Desmond says he will, but you and I both know he won't. So does Penny, deep down. They have a baby boy - his name is Charlie. But don't get that excited - the baby boy is much more likely named after our Charlie Pace, and is not him.

3. Back to Richard - we now have more confirmation that he's some kind of eternal living on the island. This was pretty clear already, and certainly last week, but was good to see tonight anyway. Also nice was Locke closing the little loop that was opened last week - he gives the compass that the older Richard gave him in the future, back to the younger Richard in the 1950s past. The older Richard of course remembered that he had met Locke, because was older than he was when he meets Locke in tonight's meeting, but Locke did not, because he was about an hour or whatever younger last week than he was tonight. (Paging Dylan, and even B. Button, "but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now...") You now you see, again, why I love time travel and its loops.

4. Desmond of course is also caught in these loops, and tonight's episode was in effect Part II of the great time travel episode with Desmond last year. He's now heading back to L.A., with Penny and little Charlie, because that's where Ms. Hawking - Faraday's mother - now is. But, as we saw last week, Ben's there, too - where he may be put to what I see as his ultimate moral test: will he kill Penny, as he vowed to her father at the end last year? If he does, or tries to, I'll lose any belief in his ultimate goodness. If he refrains it's a whole new world...

5. Also in L.A. is Jack - and that stadium - in which Desmond met Jack on the stairs at the beginning of Season 2. I don't even want to go there. Actually, yes I do - maybe this will give some hint of how that insane coincidence came to be. (I've written that the inexplicable coincidences hold the keys to what is really going on.)

6. And last but not least - back on the island there's a hydrogen bomb hanging around, waiting to be buried. Maybe that's the island's powerful electromagnetic energy source - or helps power the island's time skips...

I'm really enjoying being back on the island - and off.

See also
: The Richard-Locke Compass Time Travel Loop ...

and Lost Returns in 5 Dimensions and Lost 4.5: Desmond 1 and Desmond 2 and Lost: Keys to What's Really Going On

12-min podcast review of Lost 5 Hr 3 - with special time travel loop segment

The Plot to Save Socrates

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24 Season 7: I Think Janis May Be the Mole

I'm going to go out a limb here, and make a prediction about the identity of the bad guy mole working in the FBI:

I think it may well be Janis Gold, which would make her the bad girl...

I get to this by process of elimination:

Larry Moss, head of the unit, at first seemed the logical choice. But he seems genuinely wanting to get the bad guys. I suppose it could just be that he loves Renee, and doesn't want to see her killed, but his commitment to working on the right side seems a little more than this. Anyway, he's still my second choice.

Sean is acting guilty as hell - which sets up a red flag for me that he isn't the mole.

Which leaves Janis. Unlike Chloe, Janis has yet to do anything really extraordinary for our side. So I'm guessing she's the one...

Well see in the weeks/hours ahead...

5-min podcast review of 24 Season 7 Hr 6 - with special prediction of the FBI mole at the end

Lost Season 5: How to Tell if Ben is Ultimately Bad or Good

I raised in my review last week of Lost's Season Five two-hour opener the question of whether Ben is ultimately good or bad...

One point that occurs to me that would prove - to my standards, at least - what Ben is ultimately made of is what he does if and when he finally gets to Penny. If he kills her, or really tries to, then he's morally corrupt, because a daughter (or son) does not deserve to die for her father's sins. If he lets her live - well, then, that would show he isn't all that bad...

Blago Tells Maddow It Was a Golden Chance to Get Good Programs Passed: Is That Wrong?

I just saw Rachel Maddow's interview of Rod Blagojevich - I thought it was by far the best of the many I've seen on television the past few days.

The crux of at least one of the major issues was finally addressed in this interview. Rachel asked Blago what he meant when he said the chance to appoint a U.S. Senator was "fucking golden" (Rachel used the word "bleeping" - I try to avoid the use of the word "bleeping," whenever possible).

The inference that Federal Prosecutor Fitzpatrick and most people are making is that this was a golden opportunity for Blago to line his pocket.

But, in response to the question from Rachel, Blagojevich said it was a golden opportunity for him to get political leverage to pass legislation and get things done - such as health care - for the people of Illinois. That's way politics is played, Blagojevich said.

After the interview, Rachel smiled and said she thought she might have gotten Blago to admit some guilt on this point on the interview. Her next guest, former Federal Prosecutor Scott Mendeloff, thought not (though he clearly thinks Blago is culpable on other issues).

I was glad to hear Mendeloff say this, because it's pretty much what I was thinking when I saw the interview. If I were a governor, wouldn't I want to do everything I could on behalf of the people in my state? If groups of supporters came to me and said, please appoint this or that person, would I be wrong to ask them what their views were on various issues which I thought were important for the state? I would still, in the end, appoint the person I thought would make the best Senator, but I would do all I could in the political process to get the best results for my state. Maybe that's a good reason for me never to run for governor.

As for Blago, there are many charges facing him, and I would like to hear the complete tapes, in full context, before making a judgment.

But on the question of whether it is right to get something good for your state, in conversations about whom you might appoint for the Senate, I can't see what's wrong in Blago's explanation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

24 Season 7, Hour 6: Adrenalin and Major Developments

Pure adrenalin 24 Season 7 Hour 6 tonight ...

What we've learned: the President's Chief of Staff may not be a bad guy, after all. At very least, he doesn't know that the bad guys have kidnapped and are trying to kill the First Gentleman...

: (1) The President's son's (late son's) girlfriend - killed by the Secret Service guy working for the above bad guys. Too bad, I liked her. (2) Emerson, by Jack and Tony, who is not too happy about Emerson's death (they were like "brothers"). In contrast, I'm glad. He was no damned good.

Rapprochement: I'm also glad to see Jack and Renee getting closer again. She survived - Bill and Chloe rescued her, nice touch. And now she's realizing why Jack had to do what he did.

President's cabinet: Especially of interest these days, with Obama's cabinet taking their offices. Regarding President Taylor's - her Secretary of State resigned. No loss. Good to see her hanging tough in a terrible situation.

President: Speaking of which, Allison Taylor has become my favorite President so far on 24. She surpasses even David Palmer, and the others are no contest. She's strong, and sensible, and doesn't ruffle.

Looking forward to next week.

See also: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5

5-min podcast review of 24 Season 7 Hr 6 - with special prediction of the FBI mole at the end

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Big Love 3.2: Two Issues Resolved, Two Not So Much

Big Love resolved two major issues last night, and introduced two new ones, giving the first two episodes of the new, third season the feel of an excellent two-hour movie, prequel to the rest of the season that starts/continues next week.

Issues Resolved:

1. Bill, with a little help from Margene, is getting the Native American casino deal. This will position his company to make some big, secure money (and good for the storyline that this happened before the meltdown that we're now in).

2. Barb is ok - her cancer has not recurred. I'm glad this was resolved, and so positively, so early in the season. It also afforded us a chance to see Nicki reacting when Bill first tells her that Barb may not be ok - one of the few times we see genuine emotion and concern and nothing feigned from Nicki in the family. When Barb gets the great news that she is ok, we also see her looking at Ana. And this leads to -

Unresolved/New Issues

1. Barb had suddenly encouraged Bill and Ana when Barb thought her cancer might have come back. Now that she knows it isn't, Barb is going back to what certainly seems to us, the viewers, as a more sensible, only-human response: Barb may not be happy about Bill and Ana. And Ana is not fitting into the family too well in any case. Will we be seeing a 4th skater on the ice next season? Still too early to say, but it's beginning to not look good...

2. And, Sarah's pregnant. This is one of the most significant developments for the family in the past three years. Now we know why Sarah wants to go to school out of state - and why she's pulling away from the father, whom she loves, but can't face with this news.

Roman was back in the picture last night, Bill resolved a pretty serious problem with Don, and this second episode, like the first, is moving this third season along to a superb start.

See also: Big Love, Season 3 ... 1. a 4th ...

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Blago May Not Be Entitled to Due Process, But He and We are Entitled to See that He Gets a Fair Trial

I know that Rod Blagojevich is technically not entitled to "due process," when the Illinois Senate tries his impeachment case starting tomorrow, so those of you who are quick to inform everyone of this legality when people discuss the Blago case, please consider me so informed.

But I also believe that Blago is nonetheless entitled to a fair trial by the Illinois Senate. And, surely, ability to call as witnesses those who are mentioned in the impeachment document, and whose names have been bandied about in the press as people Blago pressured for money, or other discussed the US Senate appointment with, need to be called to testify if the Illinois State Senate is to conduct a fair trial.

Otherwise, as I have been saying ever since these charges were first publicly presented by Federal Prosecutor Fitzgerald, we are giving a Federal prosecutor much too much control over our democracy. As person elected governor by the people of any state deserves better than to be thrown out of office on the basis of charges that have not stood up to any cross-examination - that is, the people of the state, and the people of the United States, deserve more.

If you doubt this, think what would have happened in the Joseph McCarthy or Richard Nixon era, had Federal prosecutors been able to in effect unseat governors, by getting state senates to remove them from office, on the basis of un-cross-examined charges.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Final 2: Baby and Mutiny Make Three

We learned two profound things in tonight's 2nd episode of Battlestar Galactica's finale sequence -

1. Tigh's Six is pregnant with Tigh's baby. This is a highly significant clue about the past and the future, and what is really going on in this universe. As Six says, this is the first time two Cylons have conceived - and, not for want of trying, as she sexily says. This pregnancy, then, confirms something which a lot of us have been thinking: the final five Cylons are, in a very crucial way (or, likely more than one crucial way), not like the Sharons, Leobens, Sixes, Cavils, etc. At very least, the men in the final five can impregnate the other non-five, android Cylons. And this may well be because - well, certainly one possibility is the final five are really the ancestors, the parents, of the other Cylon models, and/or the humans we have come to know...

2. Speaking of which - all's not well among the humans. Gaeta and Zarek are, in their own mutually catalytic ways, fomenting mutiny. This is born of their continuing distrust of the Cylons, in any form. In contrast, the Adamas are seeking rapprochement, and, in the bargain, Bill and Laura are finding some long-deserved comfort.

Where is this heading?

Looks like three groups: the anti-Cylon humans; the human-Cylon alliance (consisting of both the final five special Cylons, and the Sixes, etc); and the Cavil and company bad Cylons. With the Resurrection ship gone, one thing is pretty clear: the only real future the Cylons can have is with the human alliance - if the other humans don't extinguish it first.

See also: Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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The New New York Senator

I don't know, I have mixed feelings about just about everything regarding David Paterson's appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton's US Senate seat in New York until the required election in 2010.

1. Regarding Caroline Kennedy: I'm disappointed that she will not be going to the Senate. As I've argued previously, her going to the Senate would have been an historically significant and satisfying act - her stepping up and taking the seat once held by her slain uncle, RFK, in a branch of government in which her slain father, JFK, served, before becoming President in 1960. Caroline heard the call to public service made by Obama throughout his campaign, and stepped up.

But why did she withdraw at the last minute? If for something like personal or family health reasons, then we can chalk this up to more bad luck for the Kennedy family and our nation. If she withdrew for personal, non-health reasons that she knew about before stepping forward, then that would count against her. If in fact she withdrew because she knew, as Gov. Paterson now says, that he was going to choose Representative Gillibrand, than I wish she had not done that - but the main villain in this piece would then be Paterson.

2. I don't like the way Paterson conducted himself in all of this in any case. He should have made a public decision much sooner. Now he says he knew on Inauguration Day that he was going to choose Gillibrand ... if true, for what reason? Why did her preferable to Caroline Kennedy - or, for that matter, Andrew Cuomo?

3. And as for Kirsten Gillibrand: she has a 100% approval rating by both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association. And that says it all to me. Because, even though both ACLU and NRA share a powerful support of the Second Amendment, with which I do not disagree, the NRA goes much further. As did Gillibrand, in introducing a bill (which didn't pass) which would have made it more difficult for police to track firearms. On the other hand, Gillibrand supports a woman's right to decide when to become a mother, and she supports gay marriage, too.

So, all in all, though I'm not at all happy with the way this whole selection process was conducted, and the way it turned out, I'm willing to support Gillibrand for the present, and see how she performs in office.


P.S.: One other, minor point: What was Al D'Amato, former Republican Senator from New York, doing at the Gillibrand (Democratic) appointment ceremony? Well, maybe I shouldn't ask - any time D'Amato appears anywhere, it does provide a little publicity for my Phil D'Amato character.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost Returns in Five Dimensions

Lost came back in Season 5 firing on all cylinders tonight - emotional to metaphysical - with every character getting a dynamic, wrenching, heart-tugging workout.

Let's start with the metaphysics. Here's what we probably now know about it: Ben moved the island back in time, and, according to Faraday's account, it's now somewhat unhinged, skipping back and forth at irregular intervals. To be more clear: in this universe, travel to the past and future, back and forth, in any order, is possible, but none of the trips can change anything that happened. Lost thus avoids the grandfather paradox and all the other exquisite twists that happen in time travel stories, ranging from Twelve Monkeys to Asimov's The End of Eternity to Deja Vu with Denzel Washington.

Except ... Desmond is something, someone special in the universe, because he can indeed do things to change the past and therefore the future. He's also Faraday's anchor, which makes sense, given that Desmond is about the only one - other than maybe us, and Ben, and Richard, and probably a few more people associated with the island in one way or another - who understand at some of this. Come to think of it, Ms. Hawking, who makes an appearance with Ben at the end of the two-hour episode tonight, probably understands a lot of this, too (and good to see Brotherhood's Fionnula Flanagan back again).

Meanwhile, back on the island, some time in the past, Faraday gives Desmond an important message, which Desmond in the future (our present) suddenly remembers. This pulls him out of his sweet bed with Penny, and off on a mission to see Faraday's mother in Oxford. (It occurs to me that maybe Faraday's mother is Ms. Hawking? Or, hey, maybe she's related to Stephen Hawking.)

Lots of good stuff with Hurley in L.A., too. Except for the fact that he gets helpful visits from the departed - tonight, it's Ana Lucia - Hurley's not really crazy. He does believe Sayid, though, who tells him to do the opposite of anything Ben tells him, and Hurley follows this advice, which gets in the way of Ben's plan to bring everyone back to the island, which may be a good thing (that is, bringing everyone back to the island)

And, as has been the case every season with Ben, I'm starting to forget all the terrible things he's done, and wondering if he may be trying to help in some way, after all. (Splash some cold water in my face: I've got to snap out of that. I'm pretty sure Ben is irredeemably bad.)

While we're on the subject of trusting, I'm not too sure about Sun any more, either. I have a feeling the death of Jin turned her soul into cold stone, and I don't believe anything she says to anyone, including Kate. All she wants is to kill anyone she thinks was at all responsible for Jin's death - mostly Ben, but who knows exactly who else. On the other hand, I suppose she could at some point have a pang of goodness.

Coincidences: I've written a lot about their role and meaning in Lost. Tonight we have one - Kate pulls up in a car as Hurley with Sayid are pulling away. But there's nothing inexplicable about that - they're all in L.A. at the same time, after all.

We'll just have to see. It's clear that each and every character we've come to know, even in the slightest, will be on stage - in the present off the island, and on the island, three years ago and who knows when else - as Season 5 starts to slowly, smartly, logically, magically, dance some true answers to our swirling questions.

10-min podcast review of Lost 5 Hrs 1-2

Reviews and commentary on Seasons 3 and 4

2. More Thoughts On Lost 4.1: Those Who Went with Hurley and Those Who Stayed with Jack ...


3. Two More Thoughts about Lost 4.1: Ensemble Flashforwards and Is Noami Really Dead?

and ... Lost 4.1: Back, Full Paradoxical Blast ... Lost 4.2: Five Flashbacks and Three Rational Explanations ... Lost 4.3: Thirty Minutes and Big Ben ... 4.4 Kate and ... ... 4.5 Desmond 1 and Desmond 2 ... 4.6 The True Nature of Ben ... 4.7 Flash Both Ways ... 4.8 Michael and Alex ... 4.9 Daughters, Rules, and Some Truth about Ben ... 4.10: Almost a Dream Come True ... 4.11 Unlocking Locke ... 4.12 Hurley's Numbers on the Dashboard ... Season 4 Finale: Six or More Thoughts Plus One

Lost New Questions from Season 3 Finale: 1. How Far in the Future? ... 2. Who's In the Coffin? ... 3. Who's Waiting for Kate? ... 4. Who Is Naomi's Boss? ... 5. Is Mikhail Immortal? ... 6. What Constitutes Reliable Evidence? ... 7. Are the Flashforwards Desmond's Flashes?

Lost Season 3 Finale ... Flashforwards

Lost: Keys to What's Really Going On

Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Rent-a-Car, eBags, eHarmony, eMusic, Nutrisystem

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fringe 11: "A Traitor, A Criminal, And A Lunatic"

Fringe is back, in all its slithering, offbeat glory. The monster tonight in Episode 1.11 was a slug-sized common cold virus - something we can all identify with, except this one rips out your lungs, reminiscent of what Warren Zevon's "Werewolves of London" do.

More long lasting in his threat to Olivia and her unit is Harris. Olivia previously had him brought up on sexual harassment charges, but he walked away from that, and now he's back on assignment - reporting to his Homeland Security superiors on how Olivia and the crew are doing. As Harris puts it, Olivia has been working with a traitor (John), a criminal (Peter), and a lunatic (Walter). Well, he does have a point, but, otherwise, he's no pleasure to have around.

The worst threat of all comes from whoever it is who kidnapped Olivia, and genetically engineered the big virus, and the other bio horrors we've seen on the show. Except - after Olivia gets her kidnapper (an FBI agent in Olivia's unit - Loeb - speaking of traitors) to talk, at least a little, he tells her that she was kidnapped for her own good.

So, who can Olivia trust? She better get it right, because, just to up the ante, now her sister and sweet little niece have moved in with her...

See also Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times

The Plot to Save Socrates

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The Most Revolutionary Phrase of President Obama's Inaugural

I never thought I'd enjoy a Presidential Inauguration as much as I did JFK's in 1960, when I was a kid and I saw it on a black-and-white television, but Barack Obama's today was every bit as good on the big color screen, and even more revolutionary. The son of an African and an American being sworn in as President.

The single most daring words in Obama's inaugural address, I thought, was his inclusion of "non-believers" in his citing of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and the other faiths of our nation and world. That one phrase shows the profound inclusionary quality of President Obama's vision. It represents a revolution indeed. Non-believers are people, too.

His statements of what America would be doing different from now on, with George W. Bush just a few feet away, were inspiring, too. The speech was strong and straightforward.

The audience - on the stage and in the crowd - was extraordinary. It was good to see Ted Kennedy walking in at the beginning. He made it. Witness to JFK and now Barack Obama taking the oath of office.*

The first day of a new America, and a new world.

*3pm: Breaking news that Ted Kennedy was taken out on a stretcher from the Inaugural luncheon. Let's hope for the best.

Monday, January 19, 2009

24 Season 7, Hour 5: Doing Bad Things to Prevent Worse

One thing you can always count on Jack Bauer to do is just about whatever is necessary - including working with bad guys, threatening and even killing good people - to make sure the worst possible evil does not come to pass. Hour 5 of powerful, punch-in-the-stomach Season 7 of 24 tonight did not disappoint.

Jack gasses the good guy leader of Sangala and his wife, so that the bad guys can take the leader into custody - to wring whatever information they may be able to get from him - because that is the only way Jack and Tony can get to the device which has put air control and the U.S. power grid and who knows what else into bad guy control.

Even worse, Jack has no choice but to take Renee in custody - and kill her, unless he can find a way to make sure it looks like that's what he did. Which Jack does, and the good thing about this is now Renee should know that Jack is really a good guy, assuming she survives being buried alive, which we can assume she will.

Yes, the safe thing would have been for Jack to kill her, but he always lives dangerously, or just close to the edge. He calculates just what is necessary, how much bad to risk or do, to stop the ultimate evil, and does no more or less. That's what makes him and the show so good.

Speaking of Renee, she's more than ever Jack's soul mate, or at least, counterpart, doing just what he would do, as she refuses to follow her boss Moss's orders on behalf of what she correctly sees as a more important mission. It's now clear that Moss does have feelings for her, and Moss himself is starting to look not that bad, at least in comparison to the tool from the Attorney General's office who wants to question Renee about the way she obtained information last week (last hour or so) from Tanner.

The other big story tonight is the First Gentleman. It was pretty obvious that his Secret Service guy was no good, and now he shows his true colors by giving Mr. Taylor a paralytic drug, with a view towards setting him up to look like he killed his former daughter-in-law, and then committed suicide.

I can't see how that can happen and not bother Allison Taylor so much that she won't want to really look into it, and discover these bad guys (who at this point have some kind of connection to the bad guys with Jack, based on what little we learned about the President's son in Redemption). On the other hand, she continues to have her hands and brain more than full with the crisis in Sangala and the threat to U.S. infrastucture.

As happens so often, my only regret with this hour of 24 is that I can't watch the next until next week. Day 7 is continuing to be one of the very best seasons of 24.

6-minute podcast review of 24 Season 7 Hr 5

See also: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Concert for Obama at Lincoln Memorial: Highlights

As good as Obama's speech was at the Lincoln Memorial Concert for him this afternoon, for once it was perhaps not the most inspiring part of the event.

Here are some contenders -

.Pete Seeger, 89, leading a performance of "This Land is Your Land," belted out by his grandson Tao (powerful voice, sounding just like Seeger in his prime), and Bruce Springsteen.

.The Boss's "The Rising," which started the concert, was also exceptional.

.There were some great clips from the past - FDR and JFK's inaugurals were inspiring to see. But most inspiring of all was Marian Anderson's 1939 performance at the Lincoln Memorial, after being banned from another Washington concert by the racist, regressive Daughters of the American Revolution. Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, arranged for Anderson's performance.

.James Taylor's "Shower the People" with John Legend and Jennifer Nettles was just outstanding.

.So was John Mellencammp's "Pink Houses".

.And Beyonce's "America the Beautiful".

.And Herbie Hancock,, and Sheryl Crow's "One Love" would have made Bob Marley proud.

It was hard not to have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye during this extraordinary event, and I did. We're close to completing what Abraham Lincoln started and Martin Luther King, Jr. furthered, and that feels good and right indeed.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Big Love Season 3.1: A 4th...

Big Love Season 3 came back tonight with a great new episode mostly about a 4th - or, whether Bill, Barb, Nicki, and Margene will ask Ana to marry them, or make her Bill's 4th wife and their 4th sister.

We met Ana last season, which established that Bill and she are sexually and romantically attracted, Bill might want to marry her but she may not want a polygamous marriage, Margie thinks Ana's a great idea as a sister wife (and happily told Ana about Bill's status), and Barb and Nicki definitely not.

What's changed this year is Barb may be sick again, which puts her in touch with why she encouraged Bill to bring Nicki into their family seven years ago. Back then, Barb wanted to help choose the mother of her children, if she succumbed, and wanted Bill to be happy, too.

But what's motivating Barb now? Something a little more complex, since Nicki and Margie are already on hand to take care of Barb and Bill's children, and Bill. This time, it's likely that Barb sees how blessed their family has been since Bill found and acted on the "principle" - her cancer has been in remission for seven years - and Barb wants to bring in more blessings, and help cure her, again.

Ana's still not sure. Bill's thinking he can make her see the light - as well as Barb and Nicki - but determines not to sleep with her until there's a wedding ring on her finger (kissing is permitted). One of the times he goes over there, though, one things leads to another, and they make love. Bill feels guilty and tells Ana it's over-

But that would have been unlikely, in any case, given that Barb usually gets what she wants, and with she and Margie both wanting the same thing, the odds are heavily in their favor. Margie pays Ana a visit, and gives her a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Back at the Henrickson part of town, Bill, Barb, Nicki, and Margie are finding it increasingly difficult to keep their real status from the neighbors (one couple, who said they'd keep the secret, already know). Nicki puts on a great act to disguise their relationship and-

Ana shows up, presumably having read the Book of Mormon, or at least thought it over, and, says, in front of who knows exactly who, that she's ready to be a 4th....

So the story of the season is underway. Add in some good touches like one of Bill's much younger half brothers being thrown out of the compound by Bill's father, a hit out on Alby (polygamy's ok but gay is not in this world) , and Margie to the rescue in a deal Bill is pursuing with a Native American to help set up a casino, and it looks like a fine group of episodes of beds ahead and a family that's so normal in every way except one.

See also Big Love Season 3 ... 2. Two Issues Resolved, Two Not So Much

and Big Love Season 2 Concludes: Polygamy and Great Performances Affirmed and links there to reviews of other Season 2 episodes...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Neil Young on Blogging, Bailouts, More

Great new song by Neil Young, at his perceptive, now curmudgeonly best ... "Fork in Road" ...

My favorite lines (in no particular order) ... "There a bailout coming but it's not for you. It's for all those creeps hiding what they do" ... And "I'm a big rock star, my sales have tanked. I still got you. Thanks." And "I'm not dying, not giving up, not cashing in."

And this one is right out the ballpark ... "Keep on bloggin till the power goes out. Your battery's dead. Twist and shout."

Blogging - no communication - can in itself cure what ails our society. It certainly can't solve the economic crisis, or make peace in the Middle East. But it beats the alternative of saying nothing...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama and Biden Training for the Future

I love trains. They don't have the impulse and pinpoint anyplace-to-anyplace travel capabilities of automobiles, and they can't get across vast distances as fast as airplanes - both of which are incredible - but, otherwise, trains have it over every other kind of transport. They are certainly the best way of traveling from New York City to Washington, which I do at least several times a year. You can eat, sleep, read, write, work, use the facilities while you're moving to your destination - you can only do the first, more or less safely, if you're driving - and trains are much more relaxing than planes.

So I would have been glad, in any case, about Barack Obama and Joe Biden going to Washington, DC today by train.

Obama began the trip with a speech in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. It's a great, classic station, which opened in 1933, the year that FDR took office. A nice parallel there with Obama, in addition to the resonance with Lincoln's train rides.

The Obamas picked up the Bidens in Wilmington, Delaware. The men and their wives looked like a Currier & Ives come to life on television as they boarded the train, long overcoats and scarves and big smiles. Joe Biden has been a champion of Amtrak and train travel in America - which, given the hard time our government has been giving it, needs all the help it can get.

I've never actually boarded or left a train in Wilmington. But I've enjoyed what I've seen of the station and city from the train so much - especially the neon signage on the streets beyond - that I gave Wilmington Station a major role in my 2003 science fiction mystery novel, The Pixel Eye.

The train just slowed down as it passed through Edgewood, Maryland, Obama and Biden waving from the back...

Next stop, Baltimore ... and I'll be back with more after Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Battlestar Galactica, Final 1: Dee, Ellen, and Starbuck

Well, the first of the final Battlestar Galactica episodes, like the Final Five, was wrapped in enigma and jolting surprise...

Dee finds a child's jacks toy on "Earth" - revealed last year as a radioactive ruin of a planet, and revealed in this episode as populated entirely, at least insofar as the bones that were found, by Cylons. Their destruction occurred some 2000 years ago... Dee is less unhappy than just about everyone else about this. Back on the Galactica, she's looking good, Lee kisses her ... and she blows her brains out. Why?

Tyrol discovers that he has memories of Earth, and the holocaust - which makes sense, given that he's a Cylon, and there may have been some means of resurrection nearby. Did Dee kill herself because she realized she was Cylon, because of some memory of the jacks?


And then there's Ellen. Tigh, back on ruined Earth, remembers at the end of the episode that he and Ellen died there, 2000 years ago, and Ellen told him not to worry, they would resurrect and be together again. So, Ellen is/was the final Cylon?


But what an exquisite additional maybe final twist to the Tigh and Ellen story. He loves her but kills her because he think she's a human who helped the Cylons (on his behalf). Then he finds out that he's a Cylon, himself. And now he find that Ellen's a Cylon, too. (Did she resurrect on the ship? If so, where is she now?) Some eons, you just can't win...

Meanwhile, Kara is in some ways the most interesting of all. She finds her ship and corpse on Earth - not from 2000 years ago, but from when she went to Earth, some two years ago, in television series time. So ... she was somehow replicated, resurrected, or whatever it took to get her living and back in a craft again and reunited with the BSG crew? And why did she tell everyone it would all be ok, when she first got back?

One thing's for sure: the riddle of Battlestar Galactica is a lot more complex than it seemed, which was complex indeed.

But we may have an answer for the Dylan song. Anders remembers playing it some 2000 years ago. So ... the Cylons originally arrived "here" some time after right now (in our real time), and Dylan was in the air (as he is now), and the Cylons picked up his music?


See also Battlestar Galactica, Final 2: Baby and Mutiny ... Final 3: Galactica Alamo! ... Final 4: Shout-Outs to Lampkin, Lee, Tyrol ... Final 5: (Almost) All Explained ... Final 6. The Necessity of Hyrbrid ... Final 7. 'Since I Died in Your Arms' ... Final 8. Father of a Million ... Final 9. 'Every Man and Woman Over the Age of 15' ... Finale: Not Goodbye But See You Around

also Battlestar Galactica 4:10 Earth and links to reviews other BSG episodes there...

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Damages 2.2: A Good World of Hurt

More fine, brooding complexity in last night's Episode 2 of Season 2 of Damages last night, with William Hurt's Daniel Purcell quickly emerging as the most provocative new character, and played to the hilt by Hurt, whom we don't see enough of on television.

Purcell's wife was murdered last week. He's clearly being framed, with much the same results as in The Fugitive - no one other than Purcell saw the man who did the murder. Patty at first doesn't want to represent him, but she can't help herself. The case is too interesting, not to mention involving some huge energy companies - nothing makes Patty happier than bringing down a powerful foe, the bigger the better, and -

There's definitely some kind of history between Purcell and Patty - and I think it's a pretty good guess that he's the father of her son.

Meanwhile, Ellen's plan to get Patty on FBI tape doing something illegal has failed, because Patty has shifted to the Purcell case, and Tom, who has taken over Ellen's bait case, just manages to avoid doing something he shouldn't. Patty has heard something of what Tom was about to do - give one of the clients some money - and warns Tom just in time.

But now Patty is aware that Ellen brought this case in, and it's clearly just a matter of time until more of her complicity is exposed.

Is it ok if I say I'm rooting for Patty in this?

Last season I was pulling for Ellen - but until we see proof that Patty did order a hit on Ellen, I'm getting less sympathetic to her playing with the sleazy FBI agents.

Looking forward to more next week.

See also: Lying about Damages

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Three Scholars Ponder the Meaning of The Soft Edge

I couldn't resist posting this photo - three scholars pondering the meaning of The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution, written by me back in the late 1990s, and published by Routledge (New York and London) in 1997. Legions of my students and other worthy readers who have lost months over this book can identify...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Olbermann At It Again About 24

Keith Olbermann's at it again. He just called 24 a "neo-con soft porn series". Did he see the first four hours of the new season, on the air last night and Sunday? Apparently not. Has he seen any season or even one complete episode of 24? I doubt it.

Olbermann's main grievance about the show, tonight, is that his nemesis, Bill O'Reilly on Fox, "defended torture" by showing a clip of 24. I didn't see that O'Reilly segment. I don't share O'Reilly's defense of torture - certainly not the Bush administration's routine use of it, and the holding of prisoners in limbo in Guantanamo.

But what does any of that have to with 24, in which torture is not glorified, but always opposed by at least one major character, and applied by Jack Bauer only when a nuclear device or other weapon of mass destruction is about to go off?

At least O'Reilly has the courage to put opposing opinions on his show. Rachel Maddow, who follows Olbermann on MSNBC, and is my favorite anchor-commentator, and always tries to interview people whose opinions differ from hers.

But not Olbermann. His guests serve as a supportive Greek chorus for his rants, which, unlike the fictional torture on 24, are a real kind of torture for the intellect on television.

Here are my reviews of 24, Season 7: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hours 3 and 4

Monday, January 12, 2009

24 Season 7: Hours 3 and 4, Jack and Tony and the Guerrilla CTU

I knew that Tony wasn't bad - as I said in my review yesterday, his not letting the two planes crash could not have been a coincidence - and tonight's Hours 3 and 4 brought the satisfying revelation that Tony is really working undercover, to foil the very plan that he was trying to implement in Hours 1 and 2...

Tonight told us a lot more: Buchanan and Chloe have a sort of guerrilla CTU going, because the traitors are running deep in our government, and Tony is working with Buchanan and Chloe. Tony explains to Jack that, after being rescued and revived from death by the bad guy mercenaries three years ago - or, whenever Season/Day 5 ended - they put him to work. He did bad things for a few years, but couldn't go along with the death of innocent Americans that the current takeover of the air control, power grids, etc. called for.

Actually, the best scene between Jack and Tony - one of the best in the series, in fact - is when Tony needs to goad Jack to almost strangle him, or get close enough, so Tony can give Jack a code to let Jack know that Tony is still associated with CTU. Tony asks Jack how he can keep working for a government that killed his wife Teri (Nina was a traitor working for CTU), estranged him from his daughter Kim, and turned Audrey into a vegetable (our government left Jack to die in China, which led Audrey to go there to save him). These were things that definitely needed saying to Jack, and who better than Tony.

Meanwhile, Buchanan (well played by James Morrison), always looked better out of his suit, and tonight he never looked better. He's also getting tougher, willing to sacrifice Jack if necessary for the ultimate goal of the mission (and when Tony and Jack were escaping from the FBI, Buchanan tells Tony that they'd be better going, even though Jack has not yet broken through to their van).

Renee is still looking good, but, unfortunately, Jack has to choke her out in order to spring Tony, and this doesn't do much to support Renee's good feelings about Jack. She's now determined to bring him, and Tony, back in, any way she can, but I'm thinking it's just a matter of time until she realizes Jack is her soul mate, or least someone on the right side.

Renee and Jack certainly have similar attitudes about when to get tough with suspects, even more similar than in Hours 1 and 2. In another excellent scene, Renee does what is necessary to get information from Tanner - i.e., she comes close to killing him (and, for we know, maybe she even did).

But Renee certainly no longer trusts Jack, and trust is a large part of what this season is all about. Someone's working for the bad guys in the FBI - not just in the field, but back in the office - and likewise someone who is close to the President. I'm still guessing Larry Moss - Renee's boss - at the FBI, and I don't like that Chief of Staff Kanin at all. He was Wayne Palmer's Secretary of Defense, and I can't recall what I thought of his advice last season, but I don't like it now. But maybe that's too obvious.

These four hours have already covered a lot of territory, and this season may be weaving the most complex plot of all. Rather than terrorists trying to blow up LA or set loose a pathogen in the middle of town, these bad guys are layer upon a layer, and I'm guessing we've seen nothing like the worst of them, yet.

Which means we're in for a great season of 24. And I'll be back with my review of Hour 5 next Monday.

See also
: Hours 1 and 2 ... Hour 5

7-min podcast review of 24 7 Hrs 3-4

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Roland Burris to Be Seated in Senate: Winners and Losers

Politico and everyone broke the news a few hours ago that the Democratic leadership in the Senate is now prepared to seat Roland Burris.

Good for the rule of law.

Here are the winners and losers in this little saga:


1. The American people, whose only protection from the abuses of government is the law, which needs to be followed, even in the case of a governor accused of a crime, who still has the legal authority to make an appointment.

2. Senator Roland Burris (D-IL), who bravely went to Washington, DC to claim his seat, to which he had been legally appointed.

3. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who last week broke ranks with the Democratic leadership, and said she saw no reason that Burris should not be seated.

4. Rod Blagojevich, who also stood up for the rule of law in making this appointment, whatever his motives. (This has no bearing on whether Blago is guilty or not of the charges which have been brought against him, and for which he has still not been tried.)


1. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), who at first outrageously said that the Senate would seat no one appointed by Blagojevich. Frankly, he should be brought up on charges of impeachment for this himself, or at least voted out as Senate Majority leader.

2. President-Elect Barack Obama, who first said on December 30, 2008 said that "Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision..." Obama later changed his mind, but, as Al Sharpton observed after Obama's initial statement, Obama should have stayed out of this. All in all, a misstep for the President-elect. On the bright side, this, along with Obama's invitation to Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Inauguration next week, are about the only serious mistakes Obama has made as President-elect.

3. All Americans who said Burris should not be seated. Wake up folks - the law, whether we like the actors or not, is the bedrock of our democracy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

24 Season 7: Hours 1 and 2, One of the Best Premieres Ever

One of the best 24 premieres in years - maybe the best - with Jack pulled out of a Senate hearing, looking into charges that he tortured suspects when he was working for CTU. And, in fact, CTU has been disbanded.

Renee Walker, FBI, and one of the best women ever on 24, is the agent who takes Jack away from the Senate. (I was half looking for Roland Burris standing outside, the scene was so good.) The bad guys have kidnapped a government computer whiz - in a smashing first scene - and he's been forced to put the finishing touches on a device that will allow the bad guys to break into traffic control, the power and water grids of the country, all of the things that could kill millions and bring the country to its knees. And - Tony Almeida is one of the bad guys in charge (and good to see Carlos Bernard back, even as a bad guy).

This had been well announced, and came as no surprise, but it was still very well played. And the question remains: Is Tony really bad? In tonight's two hours, he stops short of causing any death to innocent people - he does order the killing of a bad guy who was about to talk - and this leaves open the possibility that either Tony is not completely bad, or maybe he's working under some deep cover.

If so, Jack certainly doesn't know about this. There are some great scenes between Jack and Renee (Annie Wersching looks and sounds great in this role - she and Kiefer Sutherland are fine and powerful together), as Renee first makes Jack promise he won't resort to his usual tactics with suspects, but then encourages him, sort of, because she realizes that in life-and-death situations, you may need to do more, or, at least threaten to do more, than FBI rules allow.

The torture-issue thread was very carefully developed in the first two hours, as follows: (1) Renee makes it clear that she wants Jack to come to the interrogation because the target knows what Jack was capable of, so Jack's being there would convey the implicit threat of torture. (2) When the target refuses to talk, Jack asks Renee if he has permission to go further, saying it's her call, and she agrees - all of this in front of the target. (3) Jack puts a pen to the target's eye, and he agrees to talk. (4) Later, Renee asks Jack how far we he would proceeded with the pen, and Jack says you gave me permission. (5) But Renee says she was only play-acting, to jolt the subject into talking...

This will clearly be a continuing theme in the show, and a rejoinder to Keith Olbermann and others who are sure, with their eyes closed, that 24 glorifies torture. (Olbermann was wrong, in any case, to say 24 got its marching orders from the Bush administration. Torture on 24 was only used when terrorists were about to blow up a big city, and not for routine questioning of prisoners as per Bush.)

Larry Moss, Renee's boss, speaks for the FBI. He may have some feelings for Renee, and he certainly doesn't like Jack. I don't trust him. And I couldn't help noticing that he said "three" people had been killed by the sniper when Jack and Renee were questioning a suspect - when, in fact, only two were killed.

There's definitely a double agent at the FBI. We see at least one. And I wouldn't be shocked if Larry is another.

Meanwhile, in presumably other matters, the President's son - whom we saw in Redemption - has apparently committed suicide. But the President's husband - the "first gentlemen" - doesn't believe it, and there's almost no way he can't be right. It's not clear what President Allison Taylor thinks about this. She has her hands more than full with an imminent U.S. intervention in Sangala, where we saw Jack in Redemption.

This was a powerhouse premiere, with lots of nice of touches. When Jack leaves the Senate hearing, the Chair says he'll be due back at the hearing "tomorrow morning." My wife and I immediately noticed this. "Tomorrow" in 24 time, but next year in television season time. And, if tonight's two-hour pace is any indication, it will seem like just a handful of heart-pounding minutes.

See also: review of Redemption

And ... Season 7, Hours 3 and 4 ... Hour 5

6-min podcast review of 24 7 Hrs 1-2

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Politics and Poetry: Blagojevich, Tennyson, Tibbles, and Burris

Rod Blagojevich was impeached today by the Illinois House - no surprise - and in his press conference just ended, quoted Alfred Tennyson -

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

-and strode off the stage, without answering questions.

Over on MSNBC, Nora O'Donnell was interviewing a Kevin Tibbles, an NBC correspondent in their Chicago bureau, who noted that Blago had "ripped off" Tennyson. I think we can immediately clear Blago of at least that one charge: Blagojevich clearly said the poem was written by Tennyson. That's proper attribution, not a "rip off" or theft of Tennyson's words.

As for the other charges, as I've been saying all along, I don't know whether Blago is guilty or not, but that's for a jury to decide, not a Prosecutor. And one of the fundamental planks of our freedom from government abuse is that we do not let prosecutors take the place of juries.

Another is that a sitting official has the right and maybe even the obligation to exercise his or her official powers - which, in Illinois, include appointing a new U.S. Senator when a seat becomes vacant.

Also in Illinois today, the Supreme Court ruled that the Illinois Secretary of State's signature is not needed for a legal appointment of U.S. Senator. It's time for the U.S. Senate to seat Roland Burris.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Lying about Damages

Damages came back last night to FX, and so far it's just about as powerful, brooding and complex as the first season, which is to say, top notch television.

The essence of Damages is that you never know, completely, who is telling the truth, and that pertains, especially, to Patty Hewes, and her seconds in command, and in and out favorites, Ellen and Tom. It seemed at the end of last season that Patty put out a hit on Ellen, to remove a possible witness to Patty's wheelings and dealings, and Tom was sort of Ellen's friend.

Ellen's belief that Patty tried to have her killed motivates Ellen this season - in particular, her working with the FBI to bring Patty down. We did see loyal, old Uncle Pete tell Patty on the phone last season that "it's done," and given the circumstances, and what we know of Patty's ruthlessness, this statement certainly seemed like a strong indication, if not proof, that Patty had instructed Pete to get rid of Ellen.

But I can't help wondering - what if not? In the premiere episode of this season, Ellen goes to see Patty, but we see only part of the conversation. Ellen tells the FBI afterward that all Patty told Ellen was more of Patty's "bullshit" ... but do we know all of what Patty really told Ellen? Is it possible Ellen is now working with Patty?

As in the first season, there are teasers to the future - in the case of last night's episode, to someone Ellen is talking to, and eventually shoots. We're supposed to think this is Patty ... But let's say it's someone else?

I'm thinking Tom might be a possibility ... he's as much a part of the lying web of Damages as anyone else.

Meanwhile, Ted Danson is back as Frobisher (he wasn't killed, and Ellen's out to get him), and William Hurt is on the show as a complex new client, and together with Glenn Close as Patty, Rose Byrne as Ellen, and Tate Donovan as Tom we've got one smack in the mouth show. Though I'll miss Zeljko Ivanek's Ray - well, at least he's on True Blood now...

3-min podcast review of Damages 2.1

See also Damages 1-10

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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